Us­ing new tech­nolo­gies to fight crime

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Mark Rick­etts

“Violence in­creas­ingly mu­tates and spreads; and in­creases in crim­i­nal pres­ence and vi­o­lent crime re­duce economic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, in­crease sec­tor con­cen­tra­tion, and di­min­ish economic com­plex­ity.” – Virid­i­ana Rios

IT IS ex­cit­ing that we have pri­vate com­pa­nies in Ja­maica, whether by them­selves or in part­ner­ship with over­seas in­ter­ests, that are ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing a range of high-tech so­lu­tions for deal­ing with crime and violence.

A ma­jor prob­lem, how­ever, is that Gov­ern­ment is ei­ther not suf­fi­ciently com­mit­ted to pri­ori­tis­ing the lev­els of cap­i­tal bud­get ex­pen­di­tures needed to spend in this crit­i­cal area of crime re­duc­tion, or it finds it­self be­tween a rock and a hard place in ef­fec­tively al­lo­cat­ing lim­ited re­sources to so many high­de­mand ar­eas, such as national se­cu­rity, jus­tice, health, ed­u­ca­tion, and in­ter­est pay­ments on its gar­gan­tuan debt.

Be­yond the prob­lems of ad­e­quate re­source al­lo­ca­tion to national se­cu­rity for com­bat­ing crime and violence, lo­cal high­tech firms are dis­ap­pointed that some of their in­no­va­tive and state-of-the-art sub­mis­sions they have made to Gov­ern­ment re­main in limbo for what seems to be for­ever.

This drag on Gov­ern­ment ever re­spond­ing, along with the press­ing need for much greater ex­pen­di­ture in deal­ing with crime and violence, must be front and cen­tre if we are go­ing to fi­nally make a state­ment that enough is enough.


As a so­ci­ety, Ja­maica has to go high-tech in fight­ing crime. To achieve our goal of crime re­duc­tion, our po­lice need new­gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies and tools. To­day, it is pos­si­ble to do a much bet­ter job than we are cur­rently do­ing in con­tain­ing crime by iden­ti­fy­ing crim­i­nals in the early stages and putting in place sys­tems that would pre­vent them from avoid­ing scru­tiny. This re­quires us hav­ing an in­te­grated mas­ter data­base that cap­tures in­for­ma­tion from all sources.

It also re­quires us build­ing dy­namic mod­els and pat­terns that au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­ate leads, pro­vide trace­able in­for­ma­tion, and point po­lice in the right di­rec­tion for pre­ven­tion and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of crimes and crim­i­nals.

Dig­i­tal data is a vi­tal tool for proac­tive, in­tel­li­gence-driven law en­force­ment. To take ad­van­tage of the vol­ume of avail­able in­for­ma­tion that cur­rently ex­ists, po­lice of­fi­cers should be em­pow­ered with ac­tion­able in­for­ma­tion (in­tel­li­gence) so that they can per­form ef­fec­tively the du­ties they are as­signed in crime de­tec­tion, in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pre­ven­tion.

Just think­ing about the vol­ume of data­bases of in­for­ma­tion per­ti­nent to crime fight­ing that are cur­rently avail­able, Dou­glas Hal­sall, chair­man, Advanced In­te­grated Sys­tems (AIS), is ex­cited about the po­ten­tial for success.

“The data ex­ist in dis­parate in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, plat­forms and tech­nolo­gies, and these data­bases are dis­persed across var­i­ous gov­ern­ment min­istries, de­part­ments, agen­cies, and pri­vate-sec­tor com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing our own. Dif­fer­ent data­bases can be linked through mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, thereby sim­pli­fy­ing in­te­gra­tion.”

The images en­rolled in the data­bases run the gamut of births and deaths, of voter reg­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion, of crim­i­nal-jus­tice data on of­fend­ers, traf­fic-vi­o­la­tion data, in­sur­ance data, and the list could go on and on.

These images and ac­tiv­i­ties can be recog­nised us­ing tech­nolo­gies such as fa­cialde­tec­tion soft­ware, pulling images from In­ter­net pro­to­col cam­eras, we­b­cams, URLs and scanned pic­tures.

Hal­sall said: “Once we in­te­grate and harness these di­verse sources of data in a clearly struc­tured fashion, this will sig­nif­i­cantly boost our crime-fight­ing strate­gies and achieve bet­ter out­comes than we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing at the mo­ment.”

The big ben­e­fit in re­triev­ing data from dis­parate data ser­vices to­day is that there are many tools, like Web-Ser­vices, that can sim­plify the task. The po­lice, for ex­am­ple, should be able to ac­cess data when they are out on as­sign­ment through their mo­biles or tablets. These data-ac­cess so­lu­tions will en­able them to do their job more ef­fec­tively and in a much shorter time frame. While the tech­nol­ogy is avail­able to get in­for­ma­tion such as the amount of tick­ets is­sued to a driver, or whether his or her reg­is­tra­tion and/or in­sur­ance are cur­rent, and if there are any pend­ing cases against the driver, it is not yet widely used in Ja­maica.

Hal­sall, in recog­nis­ing the huge po­ten­tial in this area and in our coun­try se­ri­ously ad­dress­ing the is­sues of crime and violence, is em­phatic when he says, “A smart­phone car­ried by the po­lice in the field could ac­cess data­bases through a sin­gle app, thus gar­ner­ing up-to-date in­for­ma­tion on any ve­hi­cle and driver.

“Even be­fore ap­proach­ing a

ve­hi­cle or driver, danger­ous crim­i­nals and other vi­o­la­tors of the law would not end up get­ting away with a mere traf­fic ticket. But all this is just the tip of the ice­berg, as there are so many more advanced tech­nol­ogy and ini­tia­tives,” Hal­sall added.

To un­der­stand the step-bystep process that oc­curs in this ex­am­ple, the po­lice on as­sign­ment with a smart­phone en­ter the driver’s name, and

with all the var­i­ous data­bases talk­ing to each other, rel­e­vant and per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion, if there is any, comes scrolling across the screen.

For this to hap­pen, as the AIS chair­man reaf­firms, “There needs to be data shar­ing with both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors. Such an ini­tia­tive would de­fine stan­dards and guide­lines around the struc­ture of data and data shar­ing.”

Spe­cific tech­nolo­gies and tools that are not be­ing widely used at this time in­clude closed­cir­cuit tele­vi­sion (CCTV) and other sur­veil­lance so­lu­tions like Sur­veil­lance Cam­era Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­tre (SCMC) to de­ter crime and fa­cil­i­tate the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of of­fend­ers.

In many ju­ris­dic­tions over­seas, CCTV ev­i­dence is of­ten very com­pelling, and its avail­abil­ity can serve to in­crease the like­li­hood of a guilty plea with con­se­quent sav­ings in court time and cost.


An ex­cit­ing ar­ray of high-tech crime fight­ing so­lu­tions is be­ing de­vel­oped by CTRI-IT, a tech­no­log­i­cal re­search and de­vel­op­ment com­pany. Its CEO, Dominic Allen, is, how­ever, very dis­ap­pointed at the nonex­is­tent pace of Gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to its prod­uct and ser­vice of­fer­ings. As an ex­am­ple, for more than a year and a half, ev­ery­thing has been in limbo re­gard­ing his firm’s ap­pli­ca­tion for traf­fic po­lice/ve­hi­cle in­spec­tors.

Allen says, “It’s called ROVR Po­lice Tick­et­ing Sys­tem. ROVR - Re­mote Op­er­a­tor for Ve­hi­cle Recog­ni­tion - is de­signed to flag ex­pired ve­hi­cle doc­u­ments and pro­vide alerts, such as re­stricted driver in­sur­ance poli­cies, or pro­vide alerts as well for driv­ers with records or prior tick­ets. It then guides the po­lice of­fi­cer as to ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions to take.”

With sev­eral cut­ting-edge se­cu­rity so­lu­tions in his com­pany’s ar­se­nal (more of which we will re­port in next Sun­day’s col­umn), Allen says as a coun­try, we sim­ply can­not con­tinue to fall be­hind in deal­ing with crime and violence.

It is ob­vi­ous we must have a much more ro­bust cap­i­tal bud­get geared to­wards tech­nol­ogy, and we have to build an in­te­grated mas­ter data­base that cap­tures and records the ev­i­dence-based crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties and traf­fic citations and vi­o­la­tions.

A point of some sat­is­fac­tion for tech guru Doug Hal­sall is that there are lo­cal IT com­pa­nies and their part­ners who can move ag­gres­sively in this area so that the coun­try can come to grips with its de­press­ing cy­cle of crime and violence.

In all this, we must re­mem­ber that the IMF has put crime as the num­ber one re­tar­dant to mean­ing­ful and sus­tained growth.

Mark Rick­etts, econ­o­mist, au­thor and lec­turer liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, was chief econ­o­mist of the Van­cou­ver Board of Trade in Canada; deputy chair­man of the Ja­maica Stock Ex­change; and as­sis­tant editor of the Fi­nan­cial Post, Canada’s largest fi­nan­cial weekly news­pa­per. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and rck­ttsmrk@ya­


State min­is­ter for national se­cu­rity, Pear­nel Charles Jr (cen­tre), shakes hands with US Am­bas­sador Luis Moreno af­ter for­mal­is­ing the han­dover of a scan­ning elec­tron mi­cro­scope to the In­sti­tute of Foren­sic Sci­ence and Le­gal Medicine on Novem­ber 2.


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